(London) – Afghanistan’s foreign donors should press the new Afghan government to address the country’s persistent human rights problems at a major upcoming international donor conference, Human Rights Watch said today in letters to representatives of more than a dozen donor countries. Government representatives will be meeting on December 3-4, 2014, at the London Conference on Afghanistan 2014, to affirm donor humanitarian and security commitments to the country.

“Foreign donors should act now to protect the gains achieved and reverse the failings in Afghanistan’s human rights record,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Donors need to make crystal clear that their support for the Afghan government depends on its commitment to the rights of all Afghans, particularly women and girls.”

Donors should urge the Afghan government to take specific steps to curb torture by the Afghan security forces, advance women’s rights, and revitalize the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch said. To effectively monitor human rights developments, the donors should jointly establish an independent monitoring and reporting mechanism to assess all areas of rights protection, including accountability for serious abuses, treatment of prisoners, women’s rights, children’s rights, corruption, and freedom of the media.

The September 29 inauguration of the new Afghan government and the withdrawal of most foreign military forces by the end of 2014 raise concerns that donors will reduce their commitment to Afghanistan on the basis that the core security mission has been accomplished. Human Rights Watch urged the donors to recognize that safeguarding human rights is crucial for a more stable, inclusive, and prosperous Afghanistan.

Defending the human rights gains of the last decade, especially for women and girls, will require continuing international support to, and pressure on, the new administration of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Without this involvement there can easily be a worsening of the human rights situation, not least because of the very real domestic political pressures on Ghani to limit or further curtail women’s rights, to appoint known human rights violators to high office, to tolerate the widespread use of torture by the country’s security forces, and to leave unreformed the abusive Afghan police, militia forces, and criminal justice system.

“Donors need to press President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah at the London conference to take stronger measures to address violence against women, end the impunity of the security forces, and ensure the future of Afghanistan’s human rights commission,” Kine said. “The coming weeks and months will be a critical time for human rights in Afghanistan and for the future direction of the country.”